Sheep Mountain 150 (Sab)Andy has been on me for a while now, to write an update for the website and finally I could not come up with any more excuses. Today I called "home" to Whitehorse to find out if there is any snow, and there is still none, so we will return to Paxson till the Copper Basin Race, meaning another 4 weeks of living out of the truck and a small cabin at John and Zoyas. It has been nice to only focus on training for the last few weeks, just run dogs, prepare fooddrops and talk dogs, something I always wanted to do for years.
The Sheep Mountain 150 was great, despite us driving there in pissing rain. Just in time for the race, the temperatures cooled down and we were off to a great start on a super hard packed trail. I left the startng chute first on a virgin trail, nicely groomed. Right when I pulled the hook, Zack Steer, the organizer of the race, told me, that I might no see anybody till I hit the Checkpoint in Eureka, 50 miles later, and I though: Well wouldn’t that be nice. To my surprise exactly that happened, and I had one of the cleanest runs in a long time and with the trail being so nice and hard it took me only 4hrs and 16 minutes to cover the first leg. That over all put me in second place, with Lance Mackey being 10 minutes faster, but also a lot of teams only being a few minutes slower. After the first mandatory 5 hr layover we left one team right after the other. I dropped Marmot as he did not seem to like the loping speed and once again had a clean run, not seeing a soul on the trail. First the full moon was out, but than obscured by dense ice fog, which made for a spooky run. Trail markes appeard out of the nowhere and you had to be real careful not to miss a turn. I could sense that I made time up to Lance, I knew he was not far ahead, but I was surprised when I got back to Eureka, that he actually was right 1 minute ahead of me, I just could never see him in the fog. Again the time was fast with only 4hrs and 15 minutes on the trail., still in second position. 8 minutes behind was a strong group of 3 mushers, Ken Anderson, Jason Mackey and Melanie Gould, so place 1 to 5 was in total only 9 minutes apart, with 50 miles to go. That would defenitely not get boring on the way home. After the 2nd 5 hrs layover I had second thoughts of Mickey and Eman, both more used to trotting than loping, and decided to drop Eman right in the starting chute, good move that was, but I wish I would have done the same with Mickey. Indeed was having difficulties to keep up and I ended up loading him in the sled. One by one Jason, Ken and Melanie passed me, which was somewhat demoralizing. There was only one particulary bad section in the trail, where we dropped down to Squaw Creek, and this time I was not supposed to miss out on that one and took a real good spill. It took me a while to recover from that one and collect all my gear off the trail. I though for sure to never see any of the 4 teams ahead of me again. The dogs seem to have a different idea though and really picked up the pace again and I caught back up to Melanie and on one long straight stretch I all for sudden saw 3 teams ahead of me, we were all only minutes apart with only 15 miles to go. We were all skipoling, running and peadaling and it was great fun to pass and repass each other, we had a real race going, right when we hit the trail parallel to the highway. We could even see Ken in the distance. Up Gunsight mountain Jason fell a bit behind. After me trying to run up the whole montain I got a cramp in my right leg, and Melanie passed me again. I had thoughts about eating healthier there and feeling like the weak link in my team. Luckily the trail is all downhill from there and after one last pass I finished the race in second place, only 2 minutes ahead of Melanie Gould and Jason Mackey right behind. Ken Anderson was 6 minutes ahead. It was a great weekend a good start to the racing season, as I never expected the team to do this well.
Andy finished in 25th place with his 12 dogs and I am sure he will write his own story about that. Maren got lost on the 2nd leg of the Sheep Mountain in the dense fog and came back in last position. I was scheduled to leave right than I had not much time to talk to her and she decided to scratch.
After a quick shopping trip to the "big city" we are back in Sheep Mountain and will go back to Paxson tomorrow. We also visited the Iditarod headquaters, something I enjoy doing very much and it always gets me itchy to hit the trail again.
I finally broke down and bought a cell phone, something I tried to resist for years, but it for sure will make life easier, as we will stay here to continue training and somehow I need to stay in touch with the “ outside “ world. Cell service is spotty here, which is good, it does not work from the cabin and after 10 minutes in longjohns in the parking lot, I rather keep the calls short.
This winter seems to shape up much like the 2002/03 winter with very bad snow, and the Paxson- Denali areas seems to be one of the few good training areas, so there is no reason to go back to Whitehorse or anywhere else. The 4 of us, Andy, Pierre, Maren and me are still not getting on each others nerves, altough we are living with very little privacy out of the trucks or the small cabin on Paxson Lake.
All 38 dogs look good, the old gang is used to the travelling and the younger ones are catching on quick. It is a bit different with the trucks, but that is something I'm used to. This time the transmission of the White Ford is on the way out, we lost most of the tranny fluid and have no more reverse as a result of that. Another reason to stay right put here and keep on training, as dogs do not break down. 3 weeks until the next race, the Knik 200, but there might not be enough snow for that. 4 weeks till the Copper Basin 300, hopefully Glenallen gets some more of the white stuff, as even there it looks a bit skimpy right now. The next adventure will be running the whole Denali Highway, from Paxson to Cantwell and back, a 280 mile round trip, so more about that one in a while.